Even the US government is lamenting that political forces in India are trying to resist the PM’s economic reforms.
It has been remarked how well Indians do outside of India. It could also be said how well Hindus do outside of India, and additionally how well Hindu-based teachings like yoga do outside of India.
The Hindu-American community has been rated as one of the most affluent and educated religious communities in America over the last more than ten years, far above the dominant Christian population. Perhaps more importantly, Hindus have been able to maintain their traditions and their families better than other religious groups.
Most major American cities have Hindu temples, many of them quite well constructed. Swaminarayanan (BAPS) that has build the famous Akshardham in Delhi has an entire set of comparable but smaller temples throughout North America and also UK. It is building a new temple in New Jersey of similar size to the massive Delhi Akshardham. London has a large set of Hindu temples of all types, making one feel that one is actually in India.
Similarly, Westerners taking up Hindu-related practices of yoga and meditation are usually among the most educated and affluent groups, and include many professionals, doctors, media people and artists. They may not formally call themselves Hindus but often have Sanskrit names, listen to kirtans, believe in karma and rebirth, and follow gurus and lineages out of India.
The old stereotypes that Hindus are backward, poor or uneducated are quite contrary to how Hindus have performed globally. Similarly the older idea that Hindu teachings are superstitious, irrational or irrelevant has been shown to be in error.
Hindu-based teachings repackaged through yoga, vedanta, and ayurveda contain among the most innovative approaches in healing, psychology, science and spirituality in the West today. While we find Hindus prominent in Silicon Valley and working for cutting edge internet companies, we also find Westerners taking up teaching and practicing yoga and vedic disciplines in a serious and dedicated manner. Even Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers, kept Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi with him as one of his greatest inspirations.
Politically speaking, the majority of Hindu-Americans vote democratic and are considered to be liberal in their views, strongly supporting Obama both in 2008 and 2012. The majority of Western people following Hindu-related teachings are also usually regarded as liberal in their ideas, with the practice of yoga itself as part of a movement towards world peace.
Yet we find the Indian left, with its socialist leanings, criticising Hindu-Americans as politically regressive, simply because they have been financially successful in a capitalist society, which the Indian left does not want India to become.
Hindu-Americans and Modi
The same Hindus in the West are largely pro-Modi and would like to see economic reform and liberalisation in India, as well as better ties between India and the world as a whole. Soon they will turn out in great numbers to support Modi’s upcoming USA visit just as they did last year, in a way that probably no previous prime minister has ever elicited during his foreign travels.
This enthusiasm for Modi extends to the Hindu youth of America, including the second generation born in the country, some of whom have never been to India. If India overall had such enthusiasm about the country and its potentials, its development would be much easier. Even the American government is lamenting that political forces in India are trying to resist Modi’s economic reforms.
However, we must remember that the Hindu-American community is only a few decades old and is still in its early developmental phases. We cannot expect it to quickly transform America or India, but so far its growth has been phenomenal. It is still fighting several battles for greater recognition and credibility just as have other immigrant communities in the past.
Looking ahead, a possible new alliance of a resurgent India, a strong global diaspora, and the growing popularity of dharmic traditions globally, may indicate a greater role for India and its culture for the future of the world.
In spite of extensive colonial, missionary, and Marxist assaults – as well as an often unsympathetic media in India – the influence of Hindu dharma continues to grow worldwide and in a variety of names, forms and movements related to all aspects of life.
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